The Aberfan Disaster: The True Story Of A Tragedy That Shook Wales in 1966

The Aberfan Disaster – On October 21, 1966, a tragic event occurred in a small Welsh mining village. A landslide of coal waste swept through the area, claiming the lives of 116 children and 28 adults. This devastating incident, known as the Aberfan disaster, resulted in the loss of half of the town’s youth, leaving only five survivors.

The landslide, which involved 140,000 cubic yards of coal waste, created a 40-foot high tidal wave, causing significant destruction to the surrounding area, including farmhouses, cottages, houses, and part of the neighboring County Secondary School. This event is remembered as one of the worst coal mining accidents in the UK.

The avalanche is believed to have occurred due to poor construction and an accumulation of water in one of the colliery’s spoil tips, which are piles of waste material generated during mining.

Wales was a prominent coal mining area during the Industrial Revolution. The Aberfan Colliery began operations in 1869 and by 1916 had exhausted space for waste on the valley floor. Consequently, waste disposal shifted to the mountainside above the village, resulting in the accumulation of seven tips containing 2.7 million cubic yards of colliery spoil by 1966.

In the years leading up to the Aberfan disaster, the town council had contacted the National Coal Board about their concerns regarding the spoil tips after a previous non-lethal accident at the colliery. Unfortunately, no action was taken to address the issue at that time. The tip that collapsed on October 21, 1966, had covered material from a previous slip.

Following the disaster, there was widespread national attention, and Queen Elizabeth II did not visit the site until eight days later. She later expressed regret for not having gone sooner. Subsequently, in 1969, the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act was passed, adding provisions for the use of mining tips among other regulations.

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